A GIRL NAMED DISASTER

Farmer (Runnery Granary, p. 300, etc.) plunges readers deep into South African social and spiritual worlds in this tale of a Shona girl fleeing an arranged marriage. When the muvuki, the witchfinder, declares that Nhamo must marry an unsavory stranger to propitiate a murder victim's spirit, Nhamo gathers her few possessions and steals away in the village's only boat, intending to float up the Musengezi to Zimbabwe and find the father she's never known. It's a perilous journey that tests every ounce of her strength, will, and ingenuity: She has to find food in seasons fat and lean, cope with loneliness, face threats from everything from (elusive, perhaps metaphysical) leopards to land mines. Gathering discorporate (imaginary? not to her) companions as she goes, Nhamo lives in and off the wild for months, ending up at last, after finding her father's grave and enduring a cold reception from his family, with the congenial scientists at a tsetse fly research station. Although Farmer describes the history and culture of the Shona and other groups in an afterword, she hardly needs to; the cultural backdrop is so skillfully developed in her protagonist's experiences and responses that it will seem as understandable—or, in the case of European and Christian practices, as strange—and immediate to readers as it is to Nhamo. This wonderfully resourceful young woman is surrounded by an equally lively, colorful cast, and by removing many of the borders between human and animal, living and dead, Farmer creates a milieu as vivid and credible as readers' own. As rewarding, and as challenging, as The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm (1994). (glossary, appendix, bibliography) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-531-09539-8

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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